PEAK PROVOCATIVE QUESTION #31 – Marilyn Armstrong

Fandango’s Provocative Question #31

Thirty-one is one of my “lucky numbers.” I’ve lived in houses numbered 31 twice, won prizes for number 31 (a TV and a long weekend in New York city including a visit to the (then) brand new Yankee Stadium) and more.

I don’t have a follow-up to this comment. That’s the whole story.

Recently we’ve been watching that 15-year-old tennis whiz kid. I got to thinking: “What if you are the biggest and best at whatever you do when you are 14 or 15? When you are the best tennis player ever especially if you are merely 15, or you are the best baton twirler on earth at 14? Where do you go after that? Is it all downhill?”

This question first occurred to me when I watched the baton twirler on television maybe ten years ago and I was thinking “This is her peak moment and it’s all downhill from here.”

I suspect this may be part of the problem with child stars. They grow up. Their best years are behind them and a lot of them don’t work much after they complete their teen years.

I don’t think I’ve had a peak year yet. Maybe I never will. I’ve had great moments. I’ve had joyful moments, little thrilling times. I’ve had a couple of really great years, breathtaking visual and emotional moments … but nothing I would call “the peak.”

I’m not sure there will be a peak. Good years, bad years, terrific years, historic years … but peak? Life is a series of peaks and valleys, dips and mountains.

That’s fine with me.

HOW GO YOUR YEARS? – Marilyn Armstrong

When I was in college, two of the women with whom I became friends were suicides. Neither of them was happy, but I would never have guessed either of them was suicidal.

One of them was just 19 when she killed herself. The other was 21.

For this reason, I have never assumed “everything is fine” for anyone. Even when you ask, you will only know what you are told and that is rarely the entire truth. People are secretive about their deepest fears and thoughts.

“How are you?”

“Everything is fine.”

“You don’t sound fine.”

“No, really. I’m fine.”

How many times can you ask before you realize you aren’t going to discover more? When people mention that aging makes them “think about mortality” I realize I began thinking about mortality when Karin died and then again when Anna jumped. Also when a young couple, just married, crashed their car into a truck and died on the highway.

Yet again, when my first husband got kidney cancer at 34 and lived, but still died young of heart disease and medical errors. Then my brother died of pancreatic cancer at 61. One of Garry’s colleagues — in her early 40s — died while waiting for a bus in Cambridge. When my first husband’s father died of his second heart attack at 52, I was pregnant and sorry he never met his grandson. For that matter, Jeff died at 53 and never met his granddaughter.

I knew a young person who died of a heart attack before age 21. Another internet friend, Rosa, died last year of a heart attack. I only found out when her mother called to tell me. She wasn’t yet 35.

And of course, there are all the friends our age who are battling cancer, dementia, heart conditions, not to mention the ones who have “beaten” cancer, but of course, you never really beat cancer. You are remitted and that will have to do.

When people complain about not being as active as they were when they were many years younger, I think they are missing the point. Age or disease can do you in at any point in your life. You don’t have to get old. You can be 21, an athlete, and collapse on the court.

The Dark Lord will have his way. When and how it hits you is partly how you used your body and your DNA. Depending on your constitution, your ability to walk, run, ride, or whatever you do may be compromised. Even eliminated.

Then again, are you breathing on your own? Do you get out of bed in the morning, even if it is a struggle? Do you find joy in your life? Do you laugh? Are there people you love who also love you? Is life interesting? Are you still curious to know what’s going to happen?

If any of these things are true, yay for you. You are alive.

Mortality is always with us, whether we are old or young. We may not be paying attention to it, or we may be under some delusion that we are exempt from “the end” because we exercise and eat right. But there will be an end.

Maybe, as Jeff used it say, it’ll be a runaway beer truck. Or something unexpectedly medical. It may be tomorrow or in 60 years. Whatever time you have, be gracious and grateful. Many people don’t get a life full of years. Others get the years and manage to be miserable anyway.

Enjoy your years, however many you have. And while you are at it, be nice to the people you know and especially those who love you and who you love. Kindness is the least expensive and most valuable gift we have to give.

IMMORTALITY AND AGING – Marilyn Armstrong

I am not sure I ever believed I was immortal, most likely because I didn’t think about it. Until sometime during college, when my various courses forced me to ponder the nature of life and death. College was the peak time for existential mental muck-raking. Being young makes these subjects philosophical.

Was this the result of too many hallucinogenic drugs? No. It was the lectures and classes. It was the books. Too many books.

College can’t hurt you if all you do is hang out on the quad or wander around looking for a bridge game where they need a fourth. I actually went to class.

I took courses like  “The Philosophy of Religion” and “Phenomenology.”

I always had a steady list of existential books I needed to read for classes, in English and French. Sartre, Camus, Lawrence Durrell, et al.

It was deep stuff and is the literature I won’t read today.

That this hyper-intellectual phase of my life coincided nicely with my first actual near-death experience was pure chance. It cured me of pondering the meaning of life and death and aimed me more in the direction of staying alive.

Nothing is more aggravating than college students pondering the philosophical meaning of death who suddenly make a realization.

“Hey, I could really DIE.”

It takes the fun and philosophy out of the experience and adds a hard edge of fear. I’m pretty sure we all thought we were smart and had a solid grip on the life and death stuff.

I was so wrong.

As I got older, I knew people who died. There was nothing philosophical about it. A couple of suicidal friends. Aging family members. The odd car skidding down the edge of a mountain.

Now that I’m a senior citizen, I know I’m very mortal. One of these days, it will be a certainty.

I’ll get back to you on that.

PROVOCATIVE QUESTION: WHAT ABOUT PREDESTINATION? – Marilyn Armstrong

This week’s provocative question is a spinoff of a question that Melanie (Sparks From a Combustible Mind) asked in her last Share Your World post.

That question from Melanie got me thinking about fate and predestination. So here’s this week’s provocative question.

I’m not entirely sure what “predestination” means. By this do you mean a rigid “ending” that you can’t change, no matter what? Because I don’t believe in that.

I think we end up where we are supposed to be. I don’t think it’s a rigid, unchanging finish. I think it is flexible and will change depending on the choices we make. But there’s a likely place we will probably land.

I don’t believe in a frozen, unbending future. More like a conclusion based on our intelligence, status, birthplace, education … and the things to which we are attracted and choose along our path as well as the kind of people to whom we are attracted.

This is how I like to describe it.

Life is like a bus trip, except you don’t know where you are going and you can’t drive the bus. No ticket, no map.

You will meet other travelers on the bus. Some will be your friends and maybe lovers and mates. They enter the bus at various stops and get off where they must. You may not be happy about it.

The bus will sometimes stop and give you the chance to visit and enjoy the scenery, but eventually, you’ll have to get back on the bus.

You still won’t have any idea where the bus is going and you still can’t drive. Sometimes, the road will be very rough and treacherous. Other times, the road will be smooth and the scenery beautiful. When all is smooth and lovely, you may think you’ve got everything under control.

You will never have everything under control. You never know when the bus will take a sudden turn or for that matter, drive off a bridge.

Life will take you where it takes you.

I don’t know what, if anything, God has to do with it. Maybe something. Maybe nothing. I have no idea. But if prayer makes you feel better, I say go for it. Because whatever makes you feel better — especially if it costs nothing — is worth doing.

STRANDED ON A DESERT ISLAND? – Rich Paschall

The “What Ifs” of Life, by Rich Paschall

Certainly, you have seen some of the various questions surrounding you being stranded on a desert island.  If you were stranded, who would you like to be with?  What 5 things would you take along?  What 5 things that you have now could you do without?  What one album would you take?  What electronic device would you need?  This assumes you would not run out of batteries I guess.

These, and questions like them, present interesting challenges to a person that they may not consider otherwise.  Who is the most important person in your life?  Is that the one you want by your side?  Perhaps you would rather have someone with survival skills.  Perhaps you would not want the other to be stranded too.  Perhaps you would rather be alone.

What 5 things would you take along?  This really calls for creative thinking.  You may consider clothes, but do you need more than you are wearing?  You might consider your music, but would that come ahead of other basic needs.  Perhaps you are one that considers music a basic need.  I know those type of people.

Birdie Beach

Would you think of camping supplies?  If you are not already a camper or outdoors person, would any of that mean anything to you.  I guess you could be clever and say you need a lifetime supply of canned goods, but then don’t forget the can opener.  Or something to start a fire.  I have heard all my life that you can start a fire by rubbing two sticks together, but I have never seen anyone actually do it.  Can you?  If so, you may be on my stranded island list.

DawnFlight-300B-72

Would you consider tools to build a shelter?  Just exactly how handy are you and what kind of tools would be suited to your skills?  I guess an ax could serve many useful purposes.  Did you have it on your list?  Did you add a hammer?  You may not need it if you have an ax.  A knife? A pick?  A power drill?  Oops, no power.

Let’s say you had an electric device whose battery was solar-powered or recharged.  What then would you take along?  I think you will not get the internet, although some day you may get that from just about anywhere.  What will you do on your island in the meantime?

Sunrise Strider

If you could take just one album, what would it be?  This is a hard one for me.  When I get an album I like, I can play it over and over, but I do get tired of it eventually and put it on a shelf.  I guess I would pick someone’s greatest hits album, but whose?

Let’s forget about the desert island for a moment and bring you back home.  What if you had just one day to live?  What would you do?  Who would you see?  What would you say?

The “one day to live” scenario is thrown out there on social media and elsewhere about as often as the desert island scenarios.  It is even more challenging as people think of all the things they were going to do but never got around to it.  The long trips are out.  The classes to learn some skill are out.

So we may be left with planning a last meal.  Are we making this feast or heading to a favorite restaurant?  Perhaps it is neither, as we go to someplace we have never tried before.  I hear there is a new French restaurant in town.  Maybe I want to go there.

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Are there people to whom you absolutely must say something?  Do you need to say good-bye to someone?  Do you need to tell someone you love him or her?  Do you need to apologize for something that happened in the past?  With a limited amount of time, which people are on the list for final conversations?

The 24-hour time frame automatically eliminates a lot of possibilities.  Would you watch a movie, go to a show, see a play?  Those all seem like such poor use of precious hours to me.

Would you go to an expensive concert if you had tickets, or would the expense no longer matter?  Perhaps you should give them away and do something else.  Would you watch television, YouTube videos, surf the internet?  I guess those practices would begin to seem like quite the waste when “the days (or hours) dwindle down to a precious few.”

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What if we lived our lives like only a few things were really important?  What if we lived our lives like there was only a day left, even if there were 25 thousand days left?  Wouldn’t it be richer and more meaningful?

There is nothing wrong with looking down the road, but too many of us are not living for today.  That is why those stranded island and one day to live scenarios are so scary.  They immediately call to mind all the things we missed out on in life and can not go back to fix.

96-ocean-Sunrise

When you are left on an island or reach the final day, make sure you did what you wanted and needed to do.  That you respected everyone.  That you told people you loved them, so you don’t leave with regrets.

Be sure that you mended fences in case there is no time later to do it.  If you do this, the one day to live challenges on social media might not be so scary.  By the way, if you are stranded on a desert island, it helps to have a volleyball named Wilson.

WHAT’S THE POINT OF IT ALL? – Marilyn Armstrong

What’s the POINT?

“321 Quote Me Created by A Guy Called Bloke and K9 Doodlepip!

The subject of these quotes will be:  “Life.”

I have a lot of stuff for this one!

“Life. Can’t live with it, can’t live without it.”
— Marilyn Armstrong
If you aren’t sure, this is the movie to watch.
In other words, zero
And now the dope is mostly legal most of the time …
Snoopy and Charlie Brown discover life
The meaning of life during dinner with Mom

Anyone who has something they might want to add? Please feel free to do it. I just had a bundle of “meaning of life” cartoons … and a few posts too.

I’ll spare you the posts.

IT’S GOING TO BE A BUMPY RIDE – Marilyn Armstrong

Life is a road which urgently needs repaving. It’s full of pot-holes, rocks, broken branches, quicksand, and mud. It’s amazing how anyone can navigate the distance. What makes repaving plans tricky is no two people travel the same road.

There are far too many roads. All of them need grading and paving.

Okay, sure, sometimes paths cross … even run side-by-side occasionally for miles — years — at a time. But even when they cross or run parallel, they aren’t one road.

It’s like a family with three kids. Say you’ve got an older brother and a younger sister. Your brother becomes a businessman and lives a pretty normal life.

Your sister discovers her own version of chaos theory. She proceeds to live a life of crisis and yeah, chaos. Not theory, but the real deal. As for you, you’re not entirely sane, but compared to your sister, you’re solidly grounded and compared to your brother, you’re a wild child. That’s worrisome because you know how much weird stuff is going on in your head.

All three kids had the same parents. As far as anyone knows, you also all had (more or less) the same upbringing.

So, I guess that road is going to stay uneven. Life will continue to be unfair. It will leave many of us looking skyward, searching for answers and sometimes, for questions.

We have great parents, crappy lives. Horrible parents, amazing lives. That’s just life. Infinitely variable, lumpy, bumpy, and charmingly uneven.